It’s common practice for international fast food chains tweak their menu to suit the taste buds of the country they’re doing business in. From having travelled to many different parts of the world, I’ve found it very interesting that actually by going to a well-known fast food chain and studying their localized menu, you can learn a lot about the local culture and diets of the place you’re visiting. This observation is no different in Argentina. McDonald’s and Burger King are the most established chains here in Buenos Aires. This is the breakdown on what they’ve done to win over the people of Argentina:
Certain burgers here in Argentina have more patties than their US counterparts:
– Angus Beef at McDonald’s: this burger comes with 2 patties instead of just 1
– The “Stacker” at Burger King: there’s a Quadruple Stacker (as seen in picture!) available here in Argentina (United States only offers a Triple)
– The classic Double Cheeseburger wasn’t on the menu this side of the equator, just the standard, single-patty cheeseburger. Interesting…
McDonald’s offers two special burgers: The McFiesta and the McNífica – these are quarter pounders with tomato, lettuce and mayo on both; the McNífica also has cheese, onion, ketchup, and mustard. As an editor’s note, I have to say it looks to me like all you need to do is order a quarter pounder with whatever combination of ingredients you’re looking for.
Burger King has created a very Argentine alternative: a burger with ham and cheese on top! While this may seem a bit silly to someone who has never been to Buenos Aires before, many visitors are quick to note that ham and cheese seems to appear everywhere.
Another invention is the Steakhouse burger with a somewhat mysterious “steakhouse sauce” – but in a country known for the quality of its beef, I can’t say it’s unexpected!
You’re likely to notice a big difference on the breakfast menu, since Argentines aren’t known for large, hearty breakfasts. (Yup, that means no McMuffins or Big Breakfast or pancakes or hash browns.) While the meals still come with coffee, the principal options on the breakfast menu here include medialunas (typical pastry) or some form of a ham and cheese sandwich. The McBagel has carried over at McDonald’s, and at Burger King they also offer muffins, croissants, and tostados (toasted bread) with ham and cheese. It was really quite a let down when I found out that they don’t have McMuffins, pancake, Big breakfast and hashbrown!
Chicken, Fish, and Vegetarian Options:
And on that same note – it’s also not unexpected that in a country known for its beef, the non-beef options are not exactly abounding. Even though Argentina has plenty of coastlines, people here tend to eat very little seafood, so there aren’t any fish options available.
For chicken, though McDonald’s has a few options on its menu. The sandwiches have just one patty and are breaded after the “crispy” fashion, with no grilled option. They also have Chicken Nuggets and chicken wraps or “McRoulette”, as well as a vegetarian wrap.
Burger King offers a few chicken options, including the “King de Pollo” and “King de Pollo Francés” – these two sub-style sandwiches come with a breaded chicken breast, lettuce, and mayo. The “Francés” also comes with ham and cheese. See the pattern?!
Neither McDonald’s nor Burger King has a veggie burger, per sé, but Burger King does offer a “Soja Bio” burger, made with soy meat and served on a whole wheat sub.
Neither fast-food chain seems to have a lot of alternative ingredients, such as mushrooms, swiss cheese or white cheddar, which can frequently be found in promotional burgers in the US.
Given vegetables aren’t a staple in the Argentine diet, it is not surprising to see the lack of salad options at both Burger King and McDonald’s. Burger King only has one (with chicken), but McDonald’s offers a few options, which can come with or without chicken, as well as a Tuna option.
Kids’ meals are actually very similar. The McDonald’s Happy Meal (or Cajita Feliz), for example: While “Fish Bites” have been swapped out for a ham and cheese sandwich, and you can also ask for tomatoes instead of fries, the biggest difference is to be found in the beverages. In the US, they offer fat-free chocolate milk, low-fat white milk, or apple juice; Argentina has the option of a soda or orange juice. As with portion sizes, it seems like McDonald’s is trying to offer healthier, nutrient-rich options for people of all ages.
Burger King Argentina only offers a burger, cheeseburger, ham and cheese sandwich, or chicken tenders with tomatoes and soda. In the US, Burger King also offers white and chocolate milk, as well as a burger, cheeseburger, and chicken nuggets with a side of apple slices.
If anyone is curious about the side of tomatoes, it’s a very common side dish here in Argentina, and can even be ordered at many restaurants. And it’s nothing too fancy either: just a tomato cut up on a plate.
And to top things off, there are the various dessert options. The Argentines keep things simple: You can have a Sundae, Ice Cream Cone, some fruit, or the special mixed ice creams: McFlurry (McDonald’s) or KingMix (Burger King), but no famous apple pies. In the US, though, both establishments offer a variety of sundaes, pies, shakes, and even cookies. Even though some things on the US menu seem to be healthier – smaller portion sizes, vegetarian options – I do want to point that no fruit is on the US dessert menus.
As you can see, while the differences are not huge like in other places, from the little tweaks that they have made, you can still get a good idea of the quintessential eating habits of Argentines. So, the next time you travel, don’t be so quick to pass on local fast food – give it a peek and you may learn a thing or two about the local culture!